Thursday, November 13, 2014

Standard-Examiner: Lack of Diversity in Ogden Police Draws Criticism

So what about it Weber County folk? Who's willing to advance their own solutions to further promote ethnic/racial diversity in our local police agencies?

To kickstart our Thursday Weber County Forum discussion, we'll highlight a couple of  Standard-Examiner items appearing during the past week, addressing the ethnic/racial makeup of the our local police agencies, particularly our Ogden Police department.

"Ogden City Police released demographics of their police force to the Standard-Examiner that revealed there are only two Hispanic officers in the department versus 130 Caucasian officers. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Ogden City’s population is 30 percent Hispanic/Latino.
The Weber County Sheriff’s Office also released stats indicating that they had four Hispanic employees in law enforcement out of 83, and 13 in the corrections department out of 286 people," SE reporter Andreas Rivera reports:
Although local law enforcement top brass say they are "always interested in hiring individuals with varying ethnic backgrounds to provide us an improved ability to communicate with many different folks as we serve the public," Ogden Police Deputy Director of Administration John Harvey says that "the department hires anyone with the right skills and interest in a law enforcement career, but that there just haven't been a lot of applicants from the Latino community."

Ogden Officer Jamie Garcia, a 22-year (OPD) veteran, names one possible factor accounting for the apparent lack of minority applicants. ”A lot of it depends on their own background, if you've had someone whose had poor experiences with law enforcement, whether it was in Salt Lake or in Mexico, then you can have (recruiting) difficulties,“ Garcia said.

And here's an more coherent and expanded version of Officer Garcia's outtake, via another online source: “If you were taught from the time that you could speak, from the time that you could understand speech, that police are to be feared and that they’re part of an occupying force that is there to circumvent the democratic processes and to strip you of your rights, then it’s very difficult for that department to come into your neighborhood and tell you that they respect you and that you should join their team,” says Phillip Atiba Goff, co-founder and president of The Center for Policing Equity at the University of California, Los Angeles. Achieving diversity in police ranks no easy task

Local advocate and former member of the Ogden Civil Service Commission, Christina Morales demurs however; and opines that a lack of applicants and interest is no excuse for such a disparity.
“They need unique recruiting ideas. Look at the cities with lots of Hispanic police officers and see how they do it,” Morales said. “If you have more ethnic officers, then you can recruit even more once they see more of their own in their local police department.”

And just like clockwork, the Standard-Examiner chimes in with its strong editorial opinion yesterday morning, "Critics are correct that the Ogden Police Department should recruit more Hispanics to its force. Junction City’s population is 30 percent Hispanic, yet there are only two Hispanic officers in the department compared to 130 Caucasian officers. An increase in Hispanic police officers would draw benefits in community policing, as well as many other advantages.
We’re not calling for a type of affirmative action, or preferences. Rather, we’re optimistic that there are enough qualified, talented law enforcement personnel who are Hispanic to choose from. But it requires diligence in recruiting. To be honest, most businesses, including the Standard-Examiner, need to increase efforts and work harder to attract qualified persons of color" the SE Editorial Board intones:
So assuming that achieving an ethnic/racial balance within our local police agencies, which mirrors, to some extent at least, the demographic makeup of our local communities is a worthy goal (and we believe it is,) how do we go about recruiting and hiring more minority police officers?  In that connection, we'll go along with Ms. Morales, and take a quick  "[l]ook at the cities with lots of Hispanic police officers and see how they do it,”

1) The Austin Police Department (TX) has formed a Hispanic Advisory Committee, to pass out fliers, produce radio commercials and ad campaigns and set up tables at campuses and community events in an effort to bring more diversity to the department:
2) Elgin City's (IL) police brass are approaching the problem by casting a "(much) wider" recruitment net:
3) Pittsburg (PA) is re-examining "onerous" residency requirements:
OK folks,  these are a few ideas, among many.  So what about it Weber County folk?  Who's willing to advance their own solutions to further promote etrhnic/racial diversity in our local police agencies?


Ozboy said...

Seems to me that the change will have to come from within first. As long as a substantial number of local law enforcement people look upon the Hispanics as the enemy, the Hispanics are not going to want to be part of them. Quit treating them like criminals and the reasonable, honest law abiding members of that community will magically appear and solve the "recruiting problem" which seems to be laid out there as some sort of excuse for the huge disparity in the general population versus the police population.

blackrulon said...

What is not understood or explained is how OPD recruits officers for vacanies. Is it a announcement for current or potentional openings? Or is it a word of mouth announcement that linits those who know of the opportunity to apply? Are future jobs as police oficers part of the local job fairs?

Fireman Joe said...

I've seen the openings announced in the paper and on the city's website. If I remember correctly you have to be fully certified to apply for the job so you are limited to applicants who are willing to shell out money and time before they get paid. I have heard rumors that several local departments have had to throw out entire applicant lists because nobody could pass the background check. Ogden has been the state's training ground for fire and police for years, gutting the state retirement system after years of pay freezes has only made it worse.

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